When you come to work and your one and only concern is improving on what you did last week, all that matters is that you try to improve and that you believe you have improved – that is, until next week comes. This is the framebuilder’s work ethic.
Framebuilders answer to a higher calling. If they didn’t, they’d be more in tune with the rest of the bicycle industry, more apt to worry about trends, concerned with a time clock, or with building an IRA. These cats live outside the lines. The reason they do what they do is because conventional manufacturing cannot; there are too many layers of corporate this or model year that, etcetera.
It is not easy for me to articulate this because bicycles are often seen as commodities. Most begin life as a pile of stuff. Often we use the same pile of stuff the factories use. So what’s the difference? The framebuilders I know believe they can add something to the pile that cannot be included by 100 people on second shift at the YourNameHere factory. If this is faulty logic or borderline delusional, then I’m guilty. I often lose a few people at this point in the conversation.
As is the case with many of my peers, I work alone. I’ve spent decades at the bench, filling orders one at a time, and listening to the silence. My conclusion is this: framebuilders build frames to build frames. Period. If they finally were to perfect the gig, there would be no reason to continue. To a man, the primary task of all framebuilders is to improve, and not to remain with the status quo.
Would a framebuilder get depressed if his work isn’t appreciated, or if the bicycle he made wasn’t ridden? I doubt it. What matters more is he believes he did his best job to fill the order, and would do the same even if the frame were to be destroyed once completed. To have this mindset, he must remain detached from everything except the pile of stuff on the bench. That is where the energy is focused, rather than what happens after it leaves his hands. He makes the frame for himself; everything else matters less.